Sunday, March 6, 2016

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 4

Three programs last Friday night, as the big first weekend starts

The first program started with the short BROKEN WINGS, created by Cinequest veterans and mother/daughter team Elizabeth and Isabella Blake-Thomas. A young girl (played by Isabella) is running for her life as fantasy and reality blur, with a pretty surprising ending.

That was the lead-in to HEAVEN'S FLOOR, based on the true story of director Lori Stoll, although in the movie her name is changed to Julia. She is a photographer, and took an assignment to Baffin Island, Canada, to get some glorious pictures of the arctic. And the pictures are great, but she was ill-prepared and ends up freezing and miserable. As her guides move on and leave her behind, a nice Inuit man and his 11 year old niece Malaya come by on a snow machine and rescue her. They take her back to the village, and take care of her while she waits for the next plane out of there. While there, she befriends Malaya and pretty soon Malaya's grandmother is asking Julia to adopt her and take her to Los Angeles, rescuing her from the bleak hopelessness of the village in a parallel to how Malaya rescued her from freezing to death in the arctic wasteland. But that comes with its own challenges, as Malaya struggles to adjust to the very different world on Los Angeles, and a family that doesn't entirely want her. Make no mistake, Julia wants her, but her husband doesn't want to adopt a new kid (he'd rather make one of their own) and her young son isn't too happy no longer being their only kid. It's a very well made, sensitive movie with very endearing characters. I personally preferred the scenes in the arctic, mainly because I find that landscape a lot more beautiful than Los Angeles. 

BROKEN WING and HEAVEN'S FLOOR plays again Sunday at 8:45 and next Friday at 2:45 

Next up was LOST SOLACE, a visually vibrant story of a young psychopath's descent into...not exactly sanity, but the ability to feel stuff, and how horrifying that is. Spencer Cutler is charming as hell, and has no problem stealing from the people he charms. He steals a painting and expensive car from a woman he's romancing. He goes to a club and does a few lines of coke...and walks off with the $100 bill he was snorting it through. At the same club, he does a new form of ecstasy called Pink Dove. And that stimulates something that starts him to actually having feelings and question his morality for the first time. And it's painful, like literally gut-wrenching. Fortunately (for him) it's somewhat temporary, and can be controlled through medication (as long as he doesn't take too much so that the effectiveness wears off.) This becomes the format for a thriller, with a girl, her abusive (possibly psychotic) father, and mentally disturbed brother (although not psychotic enough to stand up and take down their father.) Oh, and his psychiatrist who...helps...although may be more interested in publishing groundbreaking research than his well-being. The story is well told, but my favorite part was the visual techniques used in showing Spencer's changing mental state. The visuals in this are truly impressive.

LOST SOLACE plays again Sunday at 9 pm and next Thursday at 4:45

And last was the midnight movie, THE PHOENIX INCIDENT. Using real events--mainly the Phoenix Lights and the Heaven's Gate, director Keith Arem sets up a paranoia filled world of apparent alien invasion, told in faux-documentary found-footage style. Four guys go missing (you can read about them at http://maricopamissing.com/, which is part of the film's extended viral universe) and the film pieces together news reports, interviews with government researchers, and found footage from the guys to tell a terrifying story of alien invasions, government cover-up, and a suicidal cult leader. The documentary elements are very effective, but the found-footage falls victim to many of the problems I have with the genre. Mainly, the believability of it all. First, that they would continue filming, or that they're cameras would survive and record for that long (this was 1997, before GoPro. Let me tell you kids about that time...) Second, that in the panicked moments of action, they actually get perfect, clear shots of the monsters. Believability plagues other parts of the film, too, but this might just be my pickiness. I'm not a big fan of found footage, but I talked to a number of people after the screening who did like it. And like I said, the documentary elements were very well done.

Oh, and there was supposed to be a short before the feature, but due to a mix-up it wasn't shown until after. PRICK is a funny story of a cat burglar who hides in the closet while he watches a fucked up family fight and fields text from his wife angry that he's late for their sexy night. Very funny.

PRICK and THE PHOENIX INCIDENT plays again Sunday at 11 am and next Friday at 12:15.

Total Running Time: 291 minutes
My Total Minutes: 421,374
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